Of arthritis and mutated frogs.


Rachel, my friend’s mum, died a month ago. She’d been happily married for sixty-some years to stoic Daniel, a wise man, a calm man, who never set foot in in the synagogue anymore, but who used to watch God rise every dawn over a steaming cup of coffee on the stoep. Daniel couldn’t stay in the same room as Rachel for more than a minute or two in the last weeks of her life. He wanted her to go back to sleep and wake up as usual in the morning, whilst he went back to bed next door. Maybe it was the Alzheimers that was creeping in, but her illness agitated him.

Daniel had had his share of hardship in life and Rachel’s breathing near death frightened him. It reminded him of dying friends he’d supported during the holocaust, before he’d met and married Rachel and they’d moved to South Africa in nineteen fifty six. Seeing Rachel like that was really more than he could bear.

It would be rich of me to think that Daniel should have been more supportive of his wife on her deathbed. After all, our planet is dying and I insist on going back to sleep, or watching viral videos about cute kittens and comedians who pepper their sentences with “fuck” as some kind of jaded shock tactic. 

Daniel used to get edgy about Rachel’s demands at the end. I get irritated with 45° heat-waves, and water running dry in our taps. 

Do I expect that Daniel should have faced his discomfort in order to stay present with Rachel whilst she died, much like stalwart sixteen-year old Greta Thunberg does when she courageously demands action in the face of the earth’s possible extinction? Or do I recognize that Daniel probably needed the hospice nurse to offer him a cup of coffee and to listen to how uncomfortable his arthritis was or how Rachel’s cough was keeping him awake at night? My planet is dying and perhaps I first need help to feel the small, close to home distresses of the mutated frog in the puddle down the road, or how much I miss the birdsongs on waking, before I can put my big girl panties on and face the real facts? 

And yes, it is too little, too late.

May we all be held with kindness and understanding as we attempt to hide from the trauma of our planet’s major upheaval and transition. May we witness our own pain and small indignities with compassion so that we might bear her’s. May we be truthful, courageous and kind, first to ourselves, then to one another, and then to the earth. May we recognize that we are all one being.

Amy Mongie